India: Separatists Kill 3 Policemen in Kashmir

Amin Masoodi and Akash Vashishtha
Srinagar and New Delhi
2016-05-23
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150523-IN-insurgencies-620.jpg Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti lays a wreath on the coffin of one of three policemen killed in attacks by suspected separatists in Srinagar, May 23, 2016.
AFP

Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir were searching Monday for four suspected insurgents accused of killing three policemen in separate attacks earlier in the day in Srinagar, ending three years of relative peace in the city.

The banned separatist faction Hizbul Mujahideen claimed the twin attacks. They came barely two days after the Indian Army gunned down five suspected operatives of the Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) in Kupwara, a northern district in Jammu and Kashmir state.

However, late on Monday it remained unclear if Saturday’s encounter, which also left an army trooper dead and two soldiers injured in a seven-hour gun battle, was related to the latest assault on police personnel in Srinagar.

The first attack on Monday occurred at about 10:30 a.m., when two pistol-wielding assailants on a motorcycle shot dead two unarmed policemen who were directing traffic in Srinagar’s downtown Zadibal area, police said.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Ghulam Mohammad and Head Constable Bashir Ahmed died on the spot.

About three hours later, two other suspects shot dead another police constable, Mohammad Sadiq, in Tengpora, about 15 km (9.3 miles) from the site of the first attack, before making off with his rifle, police said.

All three slain policemen were residents of Kupwara district, where a string of recent killings of alleged militants by security forces has resulted in a wave of anti-India protests.

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a Himalayan region claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, has been in the midst of separatist insurgency that has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.

High alert

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) said a high alert had been sounded across the state following Monday’s back-to-back attacks in Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K which had been relatively peaceful since June 2013, when suspected separatists gunned down two policemen in the city’s Hari Singh High Street.

“Police personnel have been deployed in strength and a high alert [has been] sounded. We are hopeful that the attackers will be nabbed soon,” Ashish Kumar Jha, spokesman for the CRPF, told BenarNews.

While claiming responsibility for the twin attacks, Kashmir-based separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen said its cadre will continue to attack Indian security personnel, according to local news agency Kashmir News Service (KNS).

“We have directed field operational commanders to carry on such attacks on [Indian] forces,” Burhan-ud-din Wani, the group’s spokesman, said in a telephonic interview to the agency.

‘Desperate act’

The state’s top police official described Monday’s attacks as following the elimination of many leaders of militant groups by security forces in the region.

“It is a desperate act, attacking unarmed policemen. It is basically a desperate act to show their presence,” K. Rajindra Kumar, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police, told reporters.

“Of late, you have been seeing that security forces are getting success in neutralizing [militant] leadership. Newly infiltrated groups have also been wiped off,” he said, adding that the Hizbul Mujahideen claim of owning responsibility for the attack was under investigation.

Challenging the army claim that the five men gunned down in Kupwara district Saturday were JeM militants, hundreds of residents attended the funerals of the slain men on Sunday amid deafening anti-India slogans.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association on Monday said it would recommend an investigation into Saturday’s army operation.

“In the wake of contradictory reports about the militant killings, [we] will request the Chief Justice to take suo motu cognizance of the incident and order a high level investigation by a reputed agency to establish under which circumstances the army killed the suspected militants, who identities were not made public,” it said in a statement.

Six soldiers killed in northeast India

Meanwhile, in a separate attack on Indian armed forces in another part of the country over the weekend, suspected insurgents opened fire on an army convoy in the northeastern state of Manipur on Sunday, killing six soldiers.

The soldiers, who belonged to the Assam Rifles unit, were ambushed while returning from assessing a landslide area in south Manipur’s Chandel district, situated close to the Myanmar border.

“Combing operations are still on to neutralize the insurgents. There has been no exchange of fire [between the army and insurgents] yet,” Wing Commander S.S. Birdi, spokesman for the army’s Eastern Command, told BenarNews.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, army sources said the ambush was laid by CorCom, an umbrella body of insurgent groups comprising the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK).

Sources said there were at least 21 insurgent groups in seven northeastern Indian states – Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland – actively fighting for separate statehood and regional autonomy.

Sunday’s attack came a year after a similar ambush on an army convoy killed 17 soldiers of the 6th Dogra Regiment in the same district.

Last year’s attack, which was jointly claimed by the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), prompted Indian security forces to cross into Myanmar and kill 20 suspected militants allegedly responsible for the assault.

Army spokesman Birdi said the massive search operation that was ongoing was intended to prevent the attackers from crossing into Myanmar.

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